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Press Release

Barbara Laskin

Minn. Premiere of Documentary about
Post-9/11 Hate Crimes at Macalester – April 3

St. Paul, Minn. - Macalester College will host the Minnesota premiere of Divided We Fall: Americans in the Aftermath, the first feature-length documentary film to analyze the aftermath of 9/11 on South Asian and Arab Americans, at 7:30 p.m., April 3, in the Campus Center’s John B. Davis Lecture Hall. 

The film documents hate crimes against Sikhs, Muslims and others after 9/11 and examines how Americans react to the perceived "other" in times of war. Filmmaker Valarie Kaur will be available for Q&A with audience and press interviews.

Directed by Sharat Raju, Divided We Fall follows then-college student Valarie Kaur in the days and months after the 2001 terrorist attacks as she drove across America interviewing victims of hate violence.

"Five years in the making, Divided We Fall invites audiences to experience the untold stories of 9/11," said Kaur. "The journey spirals into the larger question of who counts as 'one of us' in a world divided into 'us' and ‘them.’”

Divided We Fall features the story of Balbir Singh Sodhi, a turbaned Sikh man who was shot and killed in Mesa, Ariz., on Sept. 15, 2001, by a man who called himself a "patriot." The killing was the first of an estimated 19 "retribution" murders in the year after the Sept. 11 attacks. Many Sikhs who wore turbans were immediately targeted in the backlash. Half a million Americans and 23 million people worldwide belong to the Sikh religion, which originated in India in the 15th century and requires the turban as an article of faith.

Sodhi's murder compelled Kaur, a third-generation Sikh American who was then a junior at Stanford University, to take action. With her turbaned 18-year-old cousin as cameraman, she took to the road, documenting stories seldom seen or heard by mainstream America.

Kaur traveled through 14 American cities, from Ground Zero in New York to Sodhi's gas station in Arizona, and captured more than 100 hours of interview footage. People invited her into their lives to share stories of fear and unspeakable loss, but also of resilience and hope. Her journey ended in Punjab, India, where she interviewed Sodhi's widow, Herjinder Kaur.

A second round of production in 2005, supported by a New Filmmaker Grant from Panavision Camera and a generous contribution from Eastman Kodak, added interviews with noted scholars, professors, lawmakers and policy experts who provide context and analysis to the original stories Kaur gathered in 2001.

Kaur recently received her master's degree in theological studies from Harvard Divinity School, where she is the founding director of the Discrimination and National Security Initiative, an affiliate of the Harvard Pluralism Project.

"Terrorism and critical moments in the war on terror trigger hate violence at home," Kaur said. "If we can recognize Sikh and Muslim faces as 'American,' we can respond to the fear that divides our nation in times of crises and come one step closer to a more perfect union."

Raju, an award-winning filmmaker and recent graduate of the American Film Institute Conservatory, teamed up with Kaur to present the first full-length documentary addressing hate crimes in the aftermath of Sept. 11.

"In the months after Sept. 11, the phrase 'United We Stand' was on bumper stickers and signs all across the country," Raju said. "But the phrase has a second part -- 'Divided We Fall.' There's a bigger picture, and we must strive to bridge the divisions between us in order for those words to be more than just a slogan. We hope our film is one more step in that direction."

Divided We Fall is sponsored by Macalester College’s Lealtad-Suzuki Center, the office of the Dean for the Study of Race and Ethnicity and The Center for Religious and Spiritual Life.

Macalester College, founded in 1874, is a national liberal arts college with a full-time enrollment of 1,884 students. Macalester is nationally recognized for its long-standing commitment to academic excellence, internationalism, multiculturalism and civic engagement.

For more information, see the official film site: